For Gov. Tim Kaine, Virginia should be job 1

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Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine is to be congratulated for being selected to head the Democratic National Committee. The appointment is a great honor and it demonstrates the hard work Kaine put in to helping President-elect Barack Obama get elected — both here in Virginia as well as across the nation — this past year.

    That being said, Kaine would serve the citizens of Virginia best by sticking to his day job and helping the Commonwealth deal with the financial crisis it faces. This is no time for the governor to be moonlighting at a part-time, highly partisan job. He should change his mind and graciously turn the position down and focus on helping Virginia move forward in these tough economic times.

    Richard Cranwell, chairman of the Democratic Party in Virginia, had this to say of the appointment: “President-elect Obama could not have a better partner to bring change to Washington than Governor Tim Kaine. Under Governor Kaine, Virginia has been a national model for effective, common-sense governance. We look forward to Governor Kaine sharing the Virginia Way with the rest of the country, as he helps President Obama reinvigorate America’s economy.”

    But the truth is Virginia’s economy isn’t in good shape right now either. Virginia is one of at least 40 states across the nation facing a deficit this year and Kaine, himself, has stated he expects the economy in Virginia to remain sluggish through the rest of his term. Kaine has projected revenue for the biennial budget passed last spring to be down $3 billion more than had originally been projected. These are tough times and the Commonwealth should have its governor’s full attention.

    Cranwell went on to state in a release this week the Kaine had told him that his top priority would be balancing Virginia’s budget. “Democratic leaders in the House and Senate plan to work together with Republicans to steer Virginia’s economy through tough times. We hope that our Republican counterparts share the same mission at the state level and at the national level,” Cranwell stated. But Kaine’s ability to do that would be hindered in accepting such a partisan position as DNC chairman.

    That position, at its core, demands Kaine play hardball politics against the Republicans. He would be the face of the Democratic Party and would be constantly on the national stage defending the Party and the new administration’s policies. In fact, when Obama presented Kaine with the idea of becoming the DNC chair prior to the election, Kaine said he had more important work to do. “I don’t view that, frankly, as consistent with being governor, so I’m going to be governor,” the Washington Post quoted Kaine as saying at a news conference about the state’s finances. “I would view it as taking my eye too much off the ball about things that need to happen here.”

    Those were words well spoken. Unfortunately, they appear to be just words without meaning or truth. The response from the Republicans has been swift and expected: “It is very disappointing that at a time when Virginia needs its elected leaders from both parties to come together and work to solve the serious issues currently facing our Commonwealth, Tim Kaine breaks yet another pledge, this time taking a job he said he wouldn’t accept,” stated Del. Jeffrey M. Frederick, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia. “Now is not a time for more partisanship from our governor, but a time for leadership, to cross party lines and provide solid, common sense solutions for Virginians who are hurting and worried about their future. This is the wrong move and sends the wrong signal to the people of Virginia at such a critical time.”

    The Republicans are right this time. Kaine will have plenty of time on the national stage after 2009. For now, his allegiance and focus should be here in Virginia.